Today is Opening Day. It's the one day of the season when everyone still has a reason to hope - even Orioles fans. The Phillies haven't had a playoff appearance or a winning record since 2011, so they'll be trying to snap a nine year drought starting in Philadelphia at 3:05 this afternoon against the Braves.
The Phillies had a better winter than even the most optimistic fan could have hoped for. When the 2020 season ended, the front office still hadn't made up its mind on their general manager. They didn't extend a qualifying offer to Didi Gregorius, and the signals they seemed to be sending about J.T. Realmuto was that they wanted him back, but that we shouldn't get our hopes up. That all began to change when the team hired Dave Dombrowski to be the President of Baseball Operations. Not only did he bring back J.T. and Didi to reasonable contracts, but he completely overhauled the bullpen and brought in two quality starters for the back end of the rotation and a couple of quality bats on the bench.
This is the 26 man roster that the Phillies will begin the 2021 season with. I was pretty shocked that JoJo Romero was assigned to Triple A, especially since it leaves only one lefty in the pen, but I expect they'll have him up with the big league club before too long. However, I was extremely happy to see Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn lock down the job in center field. The last thing this team needs is the distraction that Odubel Herrera would bring to the clubhouse, not to mention his weak bat and his drunken giraffe defense.
Bamboo Brad is back with the club. He can play 2B, SS, 3B and the corner outfield. He's joined on the bench by 36 year old veteran Matt Joyce. He was an All-Star in 2011 and has been a reliable power bat off of the bench for many years. I was at Opening Day two years ago when he came in to pinch hit for the Braves in the top of the 7th and hit a home run to deep right field off of Hector Neris. I'd love to see him repay the favor today against his old team.
We're going to get a full season with Alec Bohm at third, an upgrade at the back end of the rotation with Matt Moore and Chase Anderson, a bullpen that will include at least one (Vince Velasquez) and as many as three pitchers (with Spencer Howard and Ranger Suarez) who can step into the rotation in case of injury, and four quality relievers with experience closing ballgames (Neris, Bradley, Kintzler and Alvarado). They'll have the best catcher and the best backup catcher in baseball, and the tandem of Didi and Segura have looked pretty good in the field this Spring. Both Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins will be entering their age 28 season, and Andrew McCutchen quietly had a very impressive spring.
Update: What an incredible game! Phenomenal catches by both Bohm and Didi, and Roman Quinn gunned down Ozzie Albies at the plate in the top of the 10th. Ring the bell! (photo source: Ben Davis)